Qatar and the Jews: The scandal that just won’t go away

Jewish leaders who visited the country defended their trips by claiming it was becoming more moderate. But the Qataris’ own statements and actions in the months to follow kept blowing up that statement.

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Credit: Drop of Light/Shutterstock.
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Credit: Drop of Light/Shutterstock.
Stephen M. Flatow. Credit: Courtesy.
Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. (The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.)

Qatar’s foreign minister last week declared that his country will not normalize relations with Israel. And yet, not long ago, a number of American Jewish leaders visited Qatar and announced that the Qataris were becoming moderate and would soon seek relations with Israel.

So, what went wrong?

It all began in late 2017 when several leaders of American Jewish and Zionist organizations secretly accepted invitations for all-expense-paid trips to meet with the Emir of Qatar in his oil-rich Gulf kingdom.

It was curious that the travelers tried to keep their visits secret from the media, the Jewish community and even from their own members. I doubt that it was the Emir who wanted the visits kept secret since his whole point in inviting them was to improve Qatar’s public-relations image.

Perhaps the Jewish officials kept the visit secret because they were concerned that many American Jews would be uncomfortable with their actions. After all, Qatar is the world’s leading funder of Hamas terrorists. Qatar is also hosts and sponsors the world’s largest anti-Semitic media network, Al Jazeera.

A few months later, some journalists found out about the visits. They reported that registered foreign agents of Qatar in the United States had used the lavish visits as a part of what the Jewish Telegraphic Agency called “intensive lobbying of the U.S. Jewish community.” Their strategy of cultivating relations with prominent American Jews even included spreading some cash around.

Some of the Jewish leaders claimed that Israel approved of their visits to Qatar. But Acting Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that the spectacle of “self-appointed members of the Jewish community running to Qatar is an exercise of pure ego.” According to Hotovely, “They never checked with anyone in the Israeli government. Qatar is responsible for the funding of Hamas and other terrorist groups that target us and our children. We are baffled by this development.”

The Jewish leaders also defended their trips by claiming that Qatar was becoming more moderate. But the Qataris’ own statements and actions in the months to follow kept blowing up that statement.

— A report by the Anti-Defamation League found that the official Qatari government media was continuing to publish editorial cartoons that “blatantly demonize Jews” and “draw on the worst kind of anti-Semitic themes.”

— A review by MEMRI of textbooks prepared by Qatar’s Ministry of Education and used in its schools found that they “feature anti-Semitic motifs, presenting Jews as treacherous, dishonest and crafty, and at the same time as weak, wretched and cowardly.”

— The international book fair in Qatar’s capital, Doha, featured anti-Semitic books such as The Myth of the Nazi Gas Chambers and Lies Spread by the Jews, and an Arabic translation of Awakening to Jewish Influence in the United States of America by white supremacist leader (and former Ku Klux Klansman) David Duke.

— Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani declared: “Al Jazeera follows the professional standards. We are not questioning the content of Al Jazeera.” (According to CAMERA’s analysis, Al Jazeera’s coverage of Israel and Jewish affairs is a veritable “junkyard of inaccurate statements [as well as] bias and misinformation.”)

— The London Sunday Telegraph revealed that Qatar recently contributed $34 million to an Iraqi Shia terrorist group that has murdered many American soldiers in southern Iraq and sent $68 million to Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force.

— American victims of Palestinian terrorism filed suit against three major Qatari financial institutions because they were laundering millions of dollars to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists.

— The German weekly news outlet Die Zeit reported that funds were being sent by “several rich Qataris and exiled Lebanese people from Doha (Qatar’s capital) to Hezbollah … with the knowledge of influential government officials through a charity organization in Doha.”

Now we have the latest development, the new announcement by Qatari foreign minister Al-Thani: “We see that the core of the issue is the occupation. So as long as there is no prospect for ending that occupation and having a fair and just solution, I don’t see Qatar taking such a step for normalization.”

So, according to the “moderate” Qataris, Israel has to first retreat to the indefensible nine-miles-wide borders of 1967, including the surrender of the “occupied” Old City of Jerusalem (where the Western Wall and Temple Mount are located), and only then Qatar will consider normalizing relations.

So much for the “Qatar is becoming moderate” myth.

True leaders acknowledge when they have made mistakes. It’s time for the American Jewish leaders who visited and praised Qatar to admit they were wrong. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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